For the record, I’m not a tech blogger, or any sort of classified blogger for that matter. However, yesterday, I inadvertently got mixed up in a conversation revolving around a Nigerian tech blogger who felt more than a little insulted by being excluded from the CNN list of Africa’s leading tech voices on Twitter. I won’t go into the details of the story, but my imperfect take on the matter follows below.
As the biggest market in Africa, depending which indexes you believe, we Nigerians tend to assume leadership of almost any issue on discussion across the continent. We are a nation with a big population and even bigger potential to do great things (whether we do go on to do great things is a matter for another day). We love the fact that we’re the largest internet market in Africa, and that our mobile telephone market is the largest on the continent, as well as one of the fastest growing in the world.
Make no mistake, bragging rights is great stuff, and is great for innovation in my opinion, but the rights to the stuff that matter in the telecoms industry is one we have not got a firm handle on.
The leadership of Nigeria in the telecoms market notwithstanding, Nigeria is NOT the leading country in terms of technology innovation and emerging technology startups. The size of Nigeria’s telecoms market is based on the sheer purchasing power of its 160 million population, and this doesn’t translate into leadership in innovation in the spinoff startupshpere which is associated with other emerging telecoms markets around the world .
So in other words, as concerns the matter of technology and innovation, we’ve not arrived yet. This is not saying we’ve “carried last”, but we definitely aren’t top of the pile.
So how does this relate to tech bloggers and relevance? Simple: if we’re not the biggest technology market in Africa, it’s likely that the leading ideas people, or thinkers and influencers may not be from our shores, notwithstanding what we may think of ourselves.
Honestly speaking, I have tried but failed to remember when a Nigerian technology blog delivered really hot industry news to me, long before anyone else knew. My thoughts on whether this is because the average tech news day in Nigeria is slow, or that I’m generally cynical depends on my daily mood, but I’ll just say it comes down to “e no dey, e no dey”. So how is a technology blogger relevant if all I get is old, rehashed news that I’ve already heard, read, digested and moved on from? How do I respect a ‘top’ tech blog which does not have any unique insights on emerging tech events? How relevant is a technology blog, whose enduring claim to fame is the founder’s oversized sense of entitlement?
On the question of relevance in itself, I would like to think of the relevant blogger or “Twitter voice” as the guy who always has the scoop in his area of expertise. Say, if I want information on what’s going on in Kano and the general Nigerian North, I would most likely check up @dawisu. General info on politics? That’s @eggheader. Am I worried that this new tax code looks funny? That’s a discussion I’ll be taking up with @doubleph. And then there’s @toluogunlesi who’s mouth (or handle) is in everything, and @tejucole who’s likely to reduce the mundane details of our daily existence into “small fates.” That’s relevance to ME!
Two days ago, one of Nigeria’s top three telecoms brands was launching their “3.75G” network in Lagos and I waited to see the news break on Nigerian tech blogs or on Twitter. Nothing happened. My honest expectation was that there would be leaks in the blogoshpere about the impending launch, and leading tech bloggers would be at the event to cover it, but that did not happen – at least as far as I could see. So if a ‘major’ industry is happening and Nigerian tech bloggers aren’t covering or reporting it, what exactly are they supposed to do? Peel news from TechCrunch?
Relevance is when the industry respects and recognizes not only your existence, but your importance. If you have not been given priority pass to an industry event (not conferences, but A brand events, launches and briefings), if you’re not quoted by industry leaders as first rate authority, if the people who REALLY matter do not contact you for information, then just maybe there’s some ways to go towards being as relevant as we would like to think we are.
So if our bloggers feel a need to lay entitlement claims at the doorsteps of international media organizations (who, by the way, are not the leading voices in technology), isn’t it a basic requirement that they at least be relevant? If a Nigerian (read Naija) blogger is really badass, and gets snubbed by international press, I’m sure the Nigerian people will defend their own (not that we need validation form outside to prove our worth). But until our bloggers arrive, make we humble small.